Fertilised Eggs – Day Twenty

Well it’s day 20 now and these eggs should be hatching over the next four days. I’m really nervous. What if none of my $50 eggs hatch??? I’m hoping for an 80% hatch rate as I think it’s pretty unlikely to get a 100%, although that would be pretty awesome, but really I’d be happy with 50%.

Spoke to Kathy last night about what we’re going to do once the eggs hatch. We’ve decided that we’ll let each other know when the eggs start hatching and I’ll bring over any chicks on Sunday and Monday nights (if they’re hatching on time) to put under the broody.

After two days Kathy will bring the broody and chicks to my place and we’ll house them in the chickie house (need to paint it this arvo then and give it a good clean out). I think I’ll put it under the olives out the back near the kids’ sandpit.

If after two days we still have some unhatched eggs we’ll put them in the incubator for a couple mored days and see if we get any more chicks hatching. I’d better have a brooder ready just in case. I’ve got the box, just need to figure out how to do the light.

Chicks & Chooks, together at last

D-day has arrived – it’s time for my six surviving chickies to go in with the big chooks. Six chicks out of twelve, a 50% success rate. I was hoping for higher, but at least I got that. Half of them are roosters. I knew that I had at least one – the crowing was a bit of a give away. But I know for sure now – Tony, the chook man, showed me how to tell the difference.

Roosters feathers are different to hens on the rump region, they become long and thin just before the tail and are called ‘saddle feathers’. In the same area hens feathers remain fat and rounded. So my only Barnevelder, only Rhode Island Red and one of the Gold Laced Wyandottes are boys. Well, that’s two, maybe three for the table – might keep one for breeding – and I got three girls to replace the three I lost last year, so that’s good.

It was just after dusk when I grabbed the chickies and put them on the roost in the henhouse with the big chooks. Interestingly not a single one of them stayed on the roost, they all jumped down and huddled in the corner together. Not surprising really when you consider that’s what they’ve been doing all their lives, except when they decided to roost on their house and in the creeper instead of going to bed in the cute little house Tim built where they’d be nice and safe! Xav and I spent many nights searching for missing chickies, until I trimmed back the creeper cave and it no longer seemed so dark and appealing.

Anyway, everybody was still alive in the morning when I let them out, so that was nice. I left them all locked in the run that first day to give the youngsters a chance to adapt to their new home. The first lock up was interesting – none of the young ones wanted to go in, and when I physically put them in they ran back out the door! So that was a bit tricky! However, after many exclamations about their inability to stay in the house or let me catch them, I finally got them all in, and again they roosted upon the floor beneath the roosts.

Day two and I opened the run. The big chooks roamed free while the chickies stayed close to their new home. On the third day Sprinter (my only surviving Ancona named for her incredible short bursts of speed) decided to give roosting a go, and after about a week they were all roosting quite happily, well mostly anyway. I think it’s going to work, and most importantly, all fourteen chooks are doing well.

Still more about Chooks

Chooks! Chooks! Chooks! Whoever knew that choosing a breed of chook was going to be so hard!!!

In researching chooks, the only thing I haven’t been swayed on was the fact that I didn’t want commercial hybrids. Right from the beginning I’ve said I don’t want Isa Browns or Hylines, even though they lay lots and lots. Although, only for about 18 months, maybe 24. That’s why commercial egg producers get rid of them after a year. I still don’t want them!

Looking back over my notes I realise that actually, it’s two things that I haven’t been swayed upon. The other was colour. I wanted some pretty chooks, something with a bit of colour.

My research has led me through so many different possibilities over the last couple of months, that I thought we’d do this and I thought we’d do that, and I’ve uhmmed and ahhed about which breed so many times too. I’ve wavered between ‘Dual Purpose’ birds and ‘Layers’ on a regular basis. The primary purpose of chooks was eggs, but we also wanted to eat our chooks too! And originally my thinking was such that we would get  only one breed, so which one to choose?

Barnevelders or Wyandottes? Light Sussex or Plymouth Rock? Australorp? Ancona? Faverolle? Welsummer? Adulusian, Leghorn or Minorca? Dorking or Orpington? Hamburg or Houdan? Langshan? Naked Neck? Araucana? New Hampshire or Rhode Island Red?

In the end, I couldn’t decide upon only one breed, so now we are getting a variety 🙂 It wasn’t such an anguishing issue for anybody else – I’d had only one request, and that was for the Araucana, because Brydon wanted blue eggs. Of all the different breeds out there, the Araucana, Barnevelder, Wyandotte and Ancona, have been serious contenders from the beginning. But I oscillated quite a lot between the breeds.

Also In the beginning, I was liking the idea of getting some fertile eggs and hatching our own, but after much research I decided against it. Too complicated and time involving for me and my special needs family! Then I was liking the idea of getting 4 week old chicks already sexed – 1 rooster and 12 girls – so we could handle them and get them used to us and get the boys used to them…

What I eventually decided upon was getting at least one chook from a breed known to go broody and also be good sitters and good mothers. When she does go broody I can get a clutch of fertilised eggs from a local breeder and stick them underneath her. She can do all the hard work – it also removes us a few steps so that when the chicks are old enough for us to know the difference between the girls and the boys, it won’t be so hard to kill and eat the boys.

We decided that at this stage we won’t be breeding them, so we don’t need a rooster. I’ve located three local suppliers from whom I can get fertilised eggs of a variety of different breeds, so I am definitely not in too much of a rush. At first I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to breed with a mixed flock, but I’ve since found out you just have to take the girls out of the flock and isolate them for a while with their rooster. After about two weeks, the eggs they are producing will be the purebred variety. Sounds easy enough for when the time comes.

Okay, I’ve ordered our chooks, nine in total. One from a broody line and the rest, decent layers. We’ll get them at the end of this month, so now I have to make sure the coop is ready!

Below is my revised and shortlisted table of birds I was seriously considering, ones that would probably do well in our climate zone, sorted in eggs per year (a rough estimation) because the primary aim of our first flock is to produce eggs for the eating. Breeds with Egg under the Bird or Fertile Egg category means I want these breeds and hope to get them by putting fertilised eggs under the broody hen.

Any roosters we get from the hatching of fertilised eggs will be used for the table, although it’s been suggested that as I will be using purebreeds, to get an expert in to check the roos over, because there may be one or two roos worth saving for breeding purposes. The girls will be kept on as layers or we’ll sell them if we have too many.

 

Breed Purpose Eggs p/year (Av) Buy Bird or Fertile Egg
Ancona Layer 225 Y Bird
Leghorn Layer & Show 225
Andalusian  Layer 210
Hamburg Light 210 Y Egg
Langshan Dual purpose 205 Y Bird
Minorca Dual Purpose 200 Y Egg
Sussex  Dual Purpose 195 Y Egg
Araucana  Layer & Novelty 185 Y Bird
Rhode Island Red Dual Purpose 180
Barnevelder  Dual Purpose 175 Y Bird
Welsummer Dual Purpose 175 Y Egg
Australorp Dual Purpose 170
Campine Dual Purpose 170 Y Egg
Faverolle Dual Purpose & Show 170 Y Egg
New Hampshire Dual Purpose 170
Wyandotte Dual Purpose 165 Bird
Plymouth Rock Dual Purpose 160 Y Egg
Dorking Dual Purpose 130

In the end I chose the Ancona because, even though a little flighty, it is a good forager, good layer, does well in the heat and is a striking looking bird with a reverse dalmation affect. The Langshan is another good laying breed, good forager and does well in the heat and cold. The Araucana was chosen for its blue coloured eggs and good foraging skills. The Barnevelder because it’s adaptable and does well in most climates, is a decent layer and forager and a good looking bird. And the Wyandotte was chosen because I always wanted one – they are the prettiest of the lot (I’ve ordered a gold laced one) – and they go broody easily, so are not recommended if you want lots of eggs. She will, hopefully, be the one we use to hatch our fertilised eggs. All these breeds are being sourced locally, less than 2 hours drive away, so they should be okay with our climate – I hope.

Chooks

Our aim it to get ourselves some chooks soon, so right now I’m researching chook breeds. We don’t want commercial hybrids like Isa Browns, the same way I don’t want commercial hybrid fruits and veggie seeds, so I’m looking into heritage and rare breed chooks. I’m partial to something interesting, a chook with a bit of colour.

There are so many different breeds! I didn’t realise I’d have so much choice! So far breeds I’m considering are: Faverolle, Dorking, Ancona, Plymouth Rock, Lakenvelder, Australorp, Andalusian, Barnevelder, Houdan, Minorca, Orpington, Light Sussex, Welsummer and Wyandotte. However, I’ve not been through all the breeds yet, and I’m not sure if all these breeds are available in Australia.

To help with making a choice I am in the midst of constructing a table listing all the points that are important to me, trying to gather most of my resources from Australia, considering that is where we live. It’s quite a big affair. I’ll publish it at some point, when it’s mostly compplete, with hopefully a list of the chooks we chose.

We don’t have a chook shed yet, nor do we have a chook dome for our planned circle gardens, but we have come to an arrangement with our neighbours. They have an empty chook shed and yard and hadn’t decided whether or not they would get chooks, so I proposed us getting some chooks and keeping them in their chook shed and sharing the eggs. They’re doing up their chook shed even as I write this! We won’t be ready to have chooks in our mandala garden system for quite some time yet and I am so sick of buying supermarket ‘free range’ eggs where my idea of free range of chooks roaming around in big paddocks is not necessarily the reality.

Something I found really interesting was how different the yellow of the eggs are from true free ranged chooks to the free range ones I’ve been buying from the supermarket. I saw the hard boiled yolks of a friends free ranged hens eggs and they were almost a curry yellow green in colour. At first I thought they were curried eggs, but no, it’s because these chooks free range. My supermarket free range eggs are not that yellow when hard boiled! Apparently it has something to do with the amount of fresh greens the chooks get!

Interesting colour is an important factor in choosing our chooks, but it’s not the only one. Mostly we want fresh eggs, so we want chooks that are decent layers, and we want chooks that are nice meat birds too as we plan on eating any roosters we get. We also want chooks that are placid, not flighty or aggressive. They need to be hardy too. We get 40 degree days here in summer, thankfully not regularly, and in winter, at night, it can get  down to -5! So the girls are going to need to be able to cope with both the heat and the cold.